Perspective is everything. Without it, we experience the world in a virtual vacuum. Our interactions with our friends, family, colleagues and strangers provide us with points of view that we may not have otherwise been exposed. Often, we view these things as mere opinion and either discount or ignore them accordingly, especially if they conflict with ours or are critical of us.
Learning to accept and embrace different perspectives, we can better understand others and forge stronger relationships. More importantly, we can get a clear picture of how others perceive us. This can be quite a shock, but can lead to self-improvement and personal and professional growth.
To affect positive change in an organization where I served as an Executive, we instituted a “360-Degree Review” process for our Management Team. These reviews were not linked to compensation. Our comp program was separated from our annual/regular reviews in order for us to better encourage understanding of value and progress. The purpose was to afford our leaders 360-degree vision, primarily by increasing self-awareness.
Like some traditional 360-degree feedback systems, ours consisted of multi-directional assessments. Because of the composition of our organization, we had to make some adjustments to better suit our needs. Top-down reviews were already in place and were less-formal, everyday occurrences. Bottom-up reviews were to be put in place at a later time. We implemented the two most difficult aspects of the review process; self and peer reviews.
Sequestered in a conference room, we took turns announcing our own strengths and weaknesses. As with any review process, the strengths are the easiest to identify and announce. This moved quickly and without issue. We each knew our own biggest weaknesses, but it wasn’t until the peer review process began when we started to see how our lesser-developed skills were perceived by the other team members.
There can be a variety of emotions and responses that arise during a session like this. Surprise, anger, hurt, defensiveness, denial, are all potential hazards, but if your team is honest and solid, this exercise can bring about needed change. In our case, it took several hours and some diplomacy to get past some of these emotions, but in the end, we were a much stronger team. I, personally, had a greater respect for my peers and a much better understanding of the areas I needed to improve.
[It’s worth noting that 3 members of that 4-member Executive Team, including this author, are no longer with the organization. It’s my belief that this review process was the catalyst.]
Taking this review process home with me was a turning point in my personal life. I became able to ask for genuine feedback from my friends and family. More importantly, I was able to receive it. It dramatically changed the way that I viewed my relationships and allowed me to really see my flaws in a way that allows me to address them (or accept them).
[A good example of taking this type of feedback system from workplace to personal life is personal exit interviews.]
If we are honest with ourselves, we will most likely be able to list all of our shortcomings, so when a friend or loved one points them out, there should be no surprise, For many people, it’s natural to become defensive, but with practice, we can learn to embrace the candor and view ourselves from a different perspective so that we can better ourselves and strengthen our relationships with others.